Without falling into a vanity trap, I can say with confidence that there is a fair history of big Cubs news breaking on Friday or Saturday when I’d otherwise scheduled a little leisure time for myself. When the Cubs announced that Jim Hendry had been fired, I was literally in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park. You can tell from the post that something was off, and that something was me getting intermittent service on my then terrible BlackBerry to try and post updates as I simultaneously followed press conferences on that same terrible BlackBerry. I think, at the time, I didn’t want to admit that I was playing hooky in the afternoon on a Friday to have some fun with friends.
Now, we’re much closer, so I have no problem admitting it to you: I’m going to be having some fun with friends today. Because it’s obviously a potential news-and-rumor-heavy day, because of my bad-luck history on Fridays, I’m fully expecting something big to happen while I’m out at a long lunch, or later, when I’m out with friends. No worries: I’ll still be on it, but if big news breaks between 11 am CT and 1 pm CT or after 4:30 pm CT, I may not be able to give it the same depth of attention as I usually would (but I’ll try).
- ESPN broke down – using PitchF/X data – the ten pitchers with the best “stuff” in baseball. Number one (Matt Harvey) and number four (Jeff Samardzija) probably don’t surprise you, but how about number ten … it’s Edwin Jackson. When Jackson’s results stabilize and match what his peripherals have been telling us all year, I’m not going to beat my chest and say “I told you so” (though I did), but only because lots of people have been saying the same thing. Jackson is better, and has been better, than a 5+ ERA suggests. He might not always be the guy that dismantled the Cardinals last night, but he might be closer to that guy than he is to a guy that you decry as a “bust” after two months of pitching into a four-year contract.
- How did Jackson do so well last night? You guessed it: conviction. “Tonight, he was really sharp against the best offense in baseball,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, per Cubs.com. “He had a lot more conviction with his pitches, and wasn’t worried about pitching as much as throwing. He pitched well tonight, had command, was hitting his spots, and had a really good slider. He got ahead, which I think was the biggest thing.”
- Set aside five minutes, and really dig into this profile on Albert Almora. That’s from our friend Sahadev, and it’s loaded with information about one of the Cubs’ best prospects. One bit non-specific to Almora from VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod merits highlighting. “We’re pretty excited about these guys [Almora, Baez, Soler, and Bryant], but these guys are pretty far away right now,” McLeod told Sharma. “We all know what happens to prospects. Yeah, it’d be awesome to see all four of those guys and more up in the big leagues in a couple years. But history tells us that is probably not going to happen. There’s no doubt they’re really exciting and they have tremendous potential, but none of them have played past Double-A yet. That’s something that’s not lost on any of us in the front office. We keep a level head about where they are, and as excited as we get, we always remember that.” Bingo.
- Scott Baker explained to the media why he apologized to the Cubs for the setback that derailed his Tommy John recovery, even though it obviously wasn’t his fault. “My reasoning for that was I don’t want anybody to ever think I didn’t have the intention of being a servicable pitcher right from the beginning of the season,” Baker said, per Carrie Muskat. “I guess [apologizing] wasn’t necessary but I wanted them to know [the setback] happened, and it stinks, but I did everything I could to be ready for the start of the season.” It’s all good, Scott. Baker also noted that, just as Jed Hoyer said the other day, he has given thought to returning to the Cubs next year, as they are on the verge of becoming very good.
- Speaking of Baker, his bullpen session in Chicago yesterday went well, and he’s now expected to start a rehab stint at Kane County on Sunday.
- David DeJesus will likely head to Arizona over the break to continue his rehab (shoulder strain), and the Cubs are hopeful he can start playing in games there as soon as Monday. If he takes two weeks for a rehab stint, he wouldn’t be back until just a few days before the Trade Deadline, if you’re keeping score of that kind of thing.
- Keith Law did his weekly chat, and among the Cubs-related bits: (1) Law questions whether the Javier Baez promotion to AA came too quickly; (2) because of the uncertainty in the market and the long-term nature of the payoffs, Law thinks the Cubs’ (apparent) blow the budget strategy in the international market could be a good one; (3) Law questions whether Junior Lake can play multiple defensive positions well enough to be a utility player in the bigs; (4) Law sees the Cubs getting a top 100 prospect in a deal for Matt Garza, but not two; (5) Law has always liked Shawon Dunston, Jr., but this is becoming something of a big “prove it” year for him; (6) Law is not as optimistic about Trevor Gretkzy; and (7) way too early to worry about any bat speed issues with Kris Bryant.
- Dan Vogelbach isn’t quite killing the ball like he did last year, but I love seeing quotes like this from his manager Mark Johnson: “Dan’s obviously a really good hitter. What’s big for him from last year, where I had him in Boise, his defense has gotten way better. That was his big thing. He struggled on defense some, but he’s been working on it. He knows he has to work on his flexibility, has to work on his hands and his feet. He knows it’s not all about hitting any more. When he accepted that challenge, he really started to improve.”